Asean looks forward to larger role by India

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is firming up its policy on the Indo-Pacific even as it looks to India playing a larger role in regional peace and stability and development in the coming years, experts and envoys said at a seminar here on Wednesday.

India has embraced the concept of the Indo-Pacific first spelled out by the US, and New Delhi has indicated that Asean is central to its approach to the issue.

However, experts and envoys participating in a seminar on the theme “India-Japan-Asean: Promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific” said nations in the region were looking for more clarity on India’s overall role in the emerging architecture.

Chutintorn Gongsakdi, the ambassador of Thailand to India, said senior officials of Asean recently agreed on an outlook for links between the 10-member grouping and the Indo-Pacific, though this would have to be approved by the top leadership of the member-states.

“A peaceful Indo-Pacific is good for the world. This is not only about China but also about the future India,” Chutintorn told the gathering at the event organised by Carnegie India.

“India is on the rise and Thailand wants a positive engagement,” he added.

Kenji Hiramatsu, the Japanese ambassador to India, said Asean is crystallising its vision for the Indo-Pacific, including what shape the concept must take and how nations in the region can work together to tackle common challenges.

In this regard, he spoke of the need for the two sides to take up concrete projects that can be jointly implemented.

Hiramatsu gave the example of cooperation between Japan and India in the region, including in the troubled Rakhine state of Myanmar, where the two countries are working in the housing and education sectors.

Chutintorn said the work done so far had reinforced Asean’s centrality in the Indo-Pacific concept and also focused on concepts such as “openness, inclusiveness, mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual interests and a rules-based approach”.

He added that existing sub-regional cooperation frameworks such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association, Mekong-Ganga Cooperation and Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) could be dovetailed into the Indo-Pacific concept.

India has a “big role to play” and interlocutors want to know more about “what India wants to do in the Indo-Pacific”, he added. Both Chutintorn and Hiramatsu favoured India becoming a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

First Published: Mar 14, 2019 05:27 IST

Updated: March 14, 2019 — 6:49 am